Friday, June 6, 2003 | 9:25 a.m.
Mike O'Callaghan is the Las Vegas Sun executive editor.
YESTERDAY THIS newspaper carried a report from Iraq that is most disturbing. Another attack upon American soldiers near Fallujah resulted in one being killed and five more wounded. The killing of our soldiers continues long after President George W. Bush declared the end of major hostilities, meaning war, in that country. Death for soldiers in this period of occupation isn't something that we take lightly. It's sad enough for a soldier to be killed the last day or hour of a war. To be killed while trying to help a country get back on its feet and provide security for the people is even more difficult to accept. It's devastating to the families of those who receive the death notices.
Only a short time ago this column told of the remarks an Israeli soldier and scholar made to me. He said that Americans should be ready to suffer attacks by snipers, car bombs and suicide bombers long after Iraq has been beaten on the battlefield. The hundreds of Hezbollah and other terrorists going from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and even Egypt to kill Americans are still in Iraq. So are the hundreds of armed criminals released from prison by Saddam Hussein just before the war. Put these factions together with the Iranian meddlers and it results in dead Americans unless we kill them first.
What is happening in Iraq today isn't something new to military people. Our history books make the period between the end of World War II and Korea appear as a time of peace. It was unless you were a Marine in China, an Air Force recon pilot flying over the U.S.S.R. or in West Berlin facing the Russians in East Berlin.
The situation in China is the most familiar to me so I'll use it as an example. When WWII ended in August 1945 the Marines were sent into China to accept the surrender of Japanese forces. Here are a few of their recorded experiences:
Marines guarding the rail lines to Peiping kill six Chinese communist soldiers firing at their train.
Chinese Communist troops fire on a train carrying the 1st Marine Division commander.
Communist forces clash with a 1st Marines patrol near Tientsin and one Marine is killed.
Communist forces capture seven Marines visiting a village near Peitaiho.
Communist forces ambush a supply convoy on the road to Peiping. Marines from I/II and the 1st Marines hold off the attacking force throughout the afternoon, until the enemy breaks contact. Marine losses are four killed and 10 wounded.
Communist forces make a night raid on the 1st Marine Division's main ammunition supply point at Hsin Ho.
Five Marines on a hunting expedition cross into territory controlled by the Communists. In a subsequent firefight, one is killed and the others are taken prisoner.
Communist forces confirm that they had captured five Marines on 25 December 1947 and that one of them had died soon after of wounds received.
Also, let's not forget the July 27, 1953, armistice that ended the Korean War. Since then several hundred South Koreans, North Koreans and Americans have been killed on that peninsula. The most bloody year was 1968 when 17 Americans were killed and 54 wounded. That same year 145 South Koreans were killed and 240 were wounded. Of course, as Americans we find it difficult to forget the 1968 seizure of the USS Pueblo, resulting in the death of one sailor and the 11 months of brutal treatment the rest of the crew survived. A year later, two North Korean fighter planes downed an unarmed U.S. recon aircraft, killing 31 occupants.
What has been happening in Iraq isn't to be unexpected but is very painful. If we allow this situation to continue, the killing will not stop.
About the only immediate solution to this problem is to use our full military power to eliminate the killers and those who support them. Let other people concentrate their efforts on reconstruction and aid to needy civilians. Either we do this or we get out of there.